The tabloid environmentalist: did I just miss something?

The Jetsons

Today’s tabloids and commercial press seem to have turned green overnight, prompted by the release of a report by a number of major energy providers and investors including KPMG, Pacific Hydro, OgilvyEarth and AGL developed for the Climate Institute. The front page story of the Daily Telegraph warns us of the price hike dangers of not quickly implementing an ETS. Page 4 tells us that the most desirable outcome would be its swift implementation. Above that is a sustainability fluff piece on the ‘Jetsons’, while a later opinion piece berates Rudd for failing to effectively sponsor the electric car industry. Nine News echoes the same story, including the even stronger suggestion from Climate Institute CEO John Connor that a new ETS would have to have a higher reduction target than the last. The online version of the story has even been taken up a notch with the inclusion of an Australian Conservation Foundation opinion poll that demonstrates 45% of Australians want action on climate change. They have even dragged Bob Brown up from somewhere in the depths of parliament to publicly remind us all that “Power prices are going up, because we don’t have a carbon price in this country, and because we don’t have action on climate. Cabinet’s on tomorrow, and climate change is on the agenda. Central to that must be a carbon price and a carbon tax.”

Has the world turned upside down?

Nine News is backing Bob Brown? The Daily Telegraph is pushing for the urgent implementation of an Emissions Trading Scheme, based on a report from the Climate Institute and a poll from the Australian Conservation Foundation? The Jetsons are depicted as fashionable in their desirable sustainable house, rather than ravening dreadlocked greenies who wash their clothes in sewerage? Up until now almost every single story coming from tabloid and commercial media about the ETS has depicted it as an expensive government tax grab that will unmanageably expand the family bills. Headlines from the Courier, the Tele, The Australian and others over the  last six months have included;  Going green costs $1200 a year (June 2010), Emissions Trading Scheme will cost Australian families $1100 a year (Nov 2009), How ETS will cost your family (Nov 2009),  Rudd ducks questions of ETS cost, etc, etc. Type ‘ETS Australia’ into google, and there is not a-lot of media content that emphasises the importance of putting one in place as soon as possible. Until today.

Environmental consciousness is slowly being absorbed into the soft, spongelike, blobby mainstream, nudged along by the likes of Al Gore and James Cameron. This process appeared to be undergoing swift reversal with all the shouting and gnashing of teeth coming from the climate skeptics, post climategate, Bjorn Lomborg and Lord Monkton’s world tour. It’s this resurgence in skepticism which dominated the ETS debate, fed the Telegraphs articles and shaped Gillard’s current passive position: waiting for a consensus in the Australian community before acting. This is truly a government a la  Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin: ”There go the people – I must follow them, for I am their leader.” Without wanting to speak too soon, is it possible that we have all overestimated the influence of the skeptics? Like undermanned villagers

John Connor

who attempt to fool their attackers by propping spare helmets up to peek over the town wall, I am beginning to feel that they have ingeniously managed to convince us that they represent far more  of the masses than they actually do. More importantly, will this turnaround in public opinion translate into stronger climate action on the part of the labour government? John Connor is not optimistic in his ABC interview, responding to that very question with ‘No, well that is a problem and indeed that is what the study researched’.

But it’s still too early to tell, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the pragmatic Julia reneges on her two year delay given a strong enough ‘consensus’ as represented by those unlikely new champions of the environmental movement, the tabloids. The government meets tomorrow to decide the new climate change policy (undoubtedly the reason for the timely release of the report). With a mixture of exhaustion, cynicism and hope, we await their response.  

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